Spoiler alert: The Son of Man may lose his life on the cross, but in the end he will return and shine as the sun. In a sentence, that’s kind of what the Transfiguration is–a spoiler. It lets the disciples know that even as Jesus has just predicted his death on a cross they needn’t fear, they needn’t worry, because he is unstoppable–he is, after all, the beloved Son of God. And, because of this mountaintop vision they can hold that dazzling vision and it will give them hope in the frightening days ahead.
A Transfiguration is more than a makeover, more than a new, whiter robe and a spotlight. It’s a change in form to something different, more essential and more spiritual. But the Jesus that went up the mountain was the same one who came down. He didn’t change, he just got unmasked. What the disciples saw on that mountaintop was not a different Jesus but the real Jesus. There with Moses and Elijah he was himself, revealed to them so they would know for sure who they were traveling with and who, when the day came, they would watch die. This is no ordinary rabbi, nor regular teacher, and, as good as he was to them, he was more than they understood.
Wouldn’t it be something remarkable to see the world that way, to see the glow of divine creation inside everything? Poets do that, don’t they? They look at the world and transfigure it with words, revealing the dazzle and light we missed. Gerard Manley Hopkins, famed English poet, wrote of Jesus Christ in his poem “Pied Beauty,”
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers forth whose beauty is past change: